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Bible Commentaries

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

Romans 13

Verse 1

1. ] ὑποτασσέσθω , see 1 Corinthians 16:16 , is reflective, subject himself , i.e. ‘be subject of his own free will and accord.’

For there is no authority (in heaven or earth no power at all) except from God: and (so δέ , 2 Corinthians 6:15-16 . It introduces a second clause as if μέν had stood in the first) those that are (the existing powers which we see about us), have been ordained by God . We may observe that the Apostle here pays no regard to the question of the duty of Christians in revolutionary movements. His precepts regard an established power , be it what it may. It , in all matters lawful, we are bound to obey . But even the parental power does not extend to things unlawful. If the civil power commands us to violate the law of God, we must obey God before man. If it commands us to disobey the common laws of humanity, or the sacred institutions of our country, our obedience is due to the higher and more general law, rather than to the lower and particular. These distinctions must be drawn by the wisdom granted to Christians in the varying circumstances of human affairs: they are all only subordinate portions of the great duty of obedience to LAW. To obtain, by lawful means, the removal or alteration of an unjust or unreasonable law, is another part of this duty: for all authorities among men must be in accord with the highest authority, the moral sense. But even where law is hard and unreasonable, not disobedience , but legitimate protest , is the duty of the Christian.

Verses 1-7

1 7 .] The duty of cheerful obedience to the powers of the state . It has been well observed (Calv., Thol., De Wette. See Neander, Pflanzung u. Leitung, &c. 4th ed. p. 460 ff.) that some special reason must have given occasion to these exhortations. We can hardly attribute it to the seditious spirit of the Jews at Rome , as their influence in the Christian Church there would not be great; indeed, from Acts 28:0 the two seem to have been remarkably distinct. But disobedience to the civil authorities may have arisen from mistaken views among the Christians themselves as to the nature of Christ’s kingdom and its relation to existing powers of this world. And such mistakes would naturally be rifest there, where the fountain of earthly power was situated: and there also best and most effectually met by these precepts coming from apostolic authority. The way for them is prepared by Romans 12:17 ff. of the foregoing chapter. 1 Peter 2:13 ff. is parallel: compare notes there.

Verses 1-14

Rom 12:1 to Romans 15:13 .] PRACTICAL EXHORTATIONS FOUNDED ON THE DOCTRINES BEFORE STATED. And first, ch. 12 general exhortations to a Christian life .

Verse 2

2. ] ἀντιτασσ ., see above on ὑποτασς .

ἑαυτοῖς κρῖμαλ .] shall receive for themselves (the dat. incommodi) condemnation , viz. punishment from God , through His minister, the civil power.

Verse 3

3 .] And the tendency of these powers is salutary : to encourage good works, and discourage evil. It is not necessary to set a note of interrogation after ἐξουσίαν : the clause may be treated as hypothetical, see 1 Corinthians 7:18 . Tholuck observes, that this verse is a token that the Apostle wrote the Epistle before the commencement of the Neronian persecution . Had this been otherwise , the principle stated by him would have been the same ; but he could hardly have passed so apparent an exception to it without remark.

Verse 4

4. ] τὴν μάχαιραν , perhaps in allusion to the dagger worn by the Cæsars, which was regarded as a symbol of the power of life and death: so Tacitus, Hist. iii. 68, of Vitellius, “adsistenti Consuli exsolutum a latere pugionem, velut jus necis vitæque civium, reddebat.” Dio Cassius also, xlii. 27, mentions the wearing of τὸ ξίφος on all occasions by Antony, as a sign that he τὴν μοναρχίαν ἐνεδείκνυτο . In ancient and modern times, the sword has been carried before sovereigns. It betokens the power of capital punishment: and the reference to it here is among the many testimonies borne by Scripture against the attempt to abolish the infliction of the penalty of death for crime in Christian states.

εἰς ὀργήν seems to be inserted for the sake of parallelism with εἰς ἀγαθόν above: it betokens the character of the ἐκδίκησις , that it issues in wrath . The ὀργή is referred to in τὴν ὀργήν , Romans 13:5 .

Verse 5

5. ] διό , because of the divine appointment, and mission of the civil officer.

ἀνάγκη ye must needs submit yourselves there is a moral necessity for subjection: one not only of terror, but of conscience: compare διὰ τὸν κύριον , 1 Peter 2:13 .

Verse 6

6. ] διὰ τοῦτο καί is parallel with διό , Romans 13:5 , giving another result of the divine appointment of the civil power; not dependent on Romans 13:5 .

τελεῖτε is indicative, not imperative: the command follows Romans 13:7 .

For they (the ἄρχοντες ) are ministers of God, attending upon this very duty , viz. λειτουργεῖν , hardly (as Koppe, Olsh., Meyer) φόρους τελεῖν , for in Rom 13:7 the Apostle has evidently in view the whole official character of these λειτουργοί . Reiche, al., construe, “For those who wait upon this very thing are ministers of God,” which would require οἱ εἰς αὐτ . τ . προσκ .: Koppe, ‘For λειτουργοί are of God:’ but this again would require οἱ γὰρ λειτ . Tertullian remarks, Apolog. xlii. vol. i. p. 494, that what the Romans lost by the Christians refusing to bestow gifts on their temples, they gained by their conscientious payment of taxes.

Verse 7

7 .] Before the accusatives supply αἰτοῦντι , as the correlative of ἀπόδοτε .

φόρος is tax , or tribute, direct payment for state purposes: τέλος , custom, toll , vectigal .

φόβος , to those set over us and having power: τιμή , to those, but likewise to all on whom the state has conferred distinction.

Verse 8

8. ] ὀφείλετε is not indic. (as Koppe, Reiche, al.), which would require οὐδενὶ οὐδέν , and would be inconsistent with the ὀφειλαί just mentioned, but imperative: ‘ Pay all other debts: be indebted in the matter of love alone .’ This debt increases the more, the more it is paid: because the practice of love makes the principle of love deeper and more active. Aug [116] , Ep. 192 (62), ad Cœlest. vol. ii. p. 868, says: “Redditur enim (caritas), cum impenditur, debetur autem etiam si reddita fuerit; quia nullum est tempus quando impendenda jam non sit. Nec cum redditur amittitur, sed potius reddendo multiplicatur.”

[116] Augustine, Bp. of Hippo , 395 430

πεπλήρωκεν , hath (in the act) fulfilled : compare the perfects, John 3:18 ; ch. Romans 14:23 . νόμον is not the Christian law, but the Mosaic law of the decalogue. “This recommendation of Love has, as also the similar one, Galatians 5:23 , κατὰ τῶν τοιούτων οὐκ ἔστιν νόμος , an apologetic reference to the upholders of the law, and depends on this evident axiom, ‘He who practises Love, the higher duty , has, even before he does this, fulfilled the law, the lower .’ ” De Wette.

Verses 8-10

8 10 .] Exhortation to universal love of others .

Verse 9

9. ] ἀνακεφαλ ., brought under one head , ‘united in the one principle from which all flow.’

Verse 10

10 .] All the commandments of the law above cited are negative : the formal fulfilment of them is therefore attained, by working no ill to one’s neighbour. What greater things Love works, he does not now say: it fulfils the law , by abstaining from that which the law forbids .

Verse 11

11. ] καὶ τοῦτο , and this , i.e. ‘ and let us do this ,’ viz., live in no debt but that of love (see reff.), for other reasons, and especially for this following one.

ὥρα ἤδη ἐγερθῆναι ] “The Inf. Aor. here, as after verbs of willing, ordering, &c., betokens the completion of the act in question. See Winer, § 45. 8 (edn. 6, § 44. 7).” De Wette.

ὕπνος here = the state of worldly carelessness and indifference to sin, which allows and practises the ἔργα τοῦ σκότους . The imagery seems to be taken originally from our Lord’s discourse concerning His coming: see Matthew 24:42 ; Mark 13:33 , and Luke 21:28-36 , where several points of similarity to our Rom 13:11-14 occur.

ἐγγύτ . ἡμ . σωτ . ὅτε ἐπιστ .] σωτηρία , as ἀπολύτρωσις Luke 21:28 , and ch. Romans 8:23 , of the accomplishment of salvation . ἡμῶν [is best] taken with ἐγγύτερον , ‘ nearer to us ,’ see ch. Romans 10:8 , [though] ἐγγίζειἀπολύτρωσις ὑμῶν , Luke 21:28 , seems [at first sight] to favour the usual connexion with σωτηρία .

ἐπιστ .] we first believed ; see reff. Without denying the legitimacy of an individual application of this truth, and the importance of its consideration for all Christians of all ages, a fair exegesis of this passage can hardly fail to recognize the fact, that the Apostle here as well as elsewhere (1 Thessalonians 4:17 ; 1Co 15:51 ), speaks of the coming of the Lord as rapidly approaching . Prof. Stuart, Comm. p. 521, is shocked at the idea, as being inconsistent with the inspiration of his writings. How this can be, I am at a loss to imagine. “OF THAT DAY AND HOUR KNOWETH NO MAN, NO NOT THE ANGELS IN HEAVEN, NOR [EVEN] THE SON: BUT THE FATHER ONLY.” Mark 13:32 .

And to reason, as Stuart does, that because Paul corrects in 2 Thessalonians 2:0 the mistake of imagining it to be immediately at hand (or even actually come , see note on ἐνέστηκεν there), therefore he did not himself expect it soon, is surely quite beside the purpose. The fact, that the nearness or distance of that day was unknown to the Apostles , in no way affects the prophetic announcements of God’s Spirit by them, concerning its preceding and accompanying circumstances. The ‘ day and hour ’ formed no part of their inspiration: the details of the event, did . And this distinction has singularly and providentially turned out to the edification of all subsequent ages. While the prophetic declarations of the events of that time remain to instruct us, the eager expectation of the time, which they expressed in their day , has also remained, a token of the true frame of mind in which each succeeding age (and each succeeding age a fortiori ) should contemplate the ever-approaching coming of the Lord. On the certainty of the event , our faith is grounded: by the uncertainty of the time our hope is stimulated, and our watchfulness aroused. See Prolegg. to Vol. III. ch. v. § iv. 5 10.

Verses 11-14

11 14 .] Enforcement of the foregoing, and occasion taken for fresh exhortations, by the consideration that THE DAY OF THE LORD IS AT HAND.

Verse 12

12. ] νύξ , the lifetime of the world , the power of darkness , see Ephesians 6:12 ; ἡμέρα , the day of the resurrection , 1 Thessalonians 5:4 ; Revelation 21:25 ; of which resurrection we are already partakers and are to walk as such , Colossians 3:1-4 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:5-8 . Therefore, let us lay aside (as it were a clothing) the works of darkness (see Ephesians 5:11-14 , where a similar strain of exhortation occurs), and put on ( δέ corresponding to an understood μέν ) the armour of light (described Ephesians 6:11 ff. the arms belonging to a soldier of light one who is of the υἱοὶ φωτός and υἱοὶ ἡμέρας , 1 Thessalonians 5:5 , not, as Grot. ‘arma splendentia’).

Verse 13

13. ] κοίταις , in a bad sense: the act itself being a defilement, when unsanctified by God’s ordinance of marriage. See reff.

ἀσελγείαις , plural of various kinds of wantonness: so ὑποκρίσεις , φθόνους , καταλαλιάς , 1 Peter 2:1 .

Verse 14

14 .] Chrys. says, on Ephesians 4:24 , οὕτω καὶ ἐπὶ φίλων λέγομεν , ὁ δεῖνα τὸν δεῖνα ἐνεδύσατο , τὴν πολλὴν ἀγάπην λέγοντες , κ . τὴν ἀδιάλειπτον συνουσίαν . See examples in Wetst.

The last clause is to be read, τῆς σαρκὸς πρόνοιαν μὴ ποιεῖσθε | εἰς ἐπιθυμίας , not τῆς σαρκὸς πρόνοιαν | μὴ ποιεῖσθε εἰς ἐπιθυμίας , and rendered, Take not (any) forethought for the flesh, to fulfil its lusts, not Take not your forethought for the flesh, so, as to fulfil its lusts ’( Wartet des Leibes, doch also, daß er nicht geil werde , Luth.). This latter would be τὴν πρόνοιαν τ . σαρκ . μὴ π . εἰς ἐπιθ ., or τῆς σ . πρόν . ποιεῖσθε μὴ εἰς ἐπιθ .: see construction of the next verse.

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Bibliographical Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Romans 13". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.